And that’s 8 straight for your Philadelphia 76ers!!!
After giving up comfortable leads and letting lesser opponents hang on for too long, it was nice to see Doc Rivers’ team just outright win against a lesser opponent. With the sweet shooting Seth Curry and the all-defensive terror Ben Simmons out last night, Philly turned to rookie Tyrese Maxey and disruptive second year man Matisse Thybulle to fill their spots.
That went pretty well.
Thybulle briefly left the game due to a hand injury (he returned later in high spirits) and in 19 minutes he had 5 steals. He’s insane on the defensive end, and it’s going to be hard to deny him minutes if he plays like this.
The rookie Maxey made his 7th start on the year and dazzled. On the defensive end he was solid, totaling a block and two steals but his offensive game is what continues to improve. He looked confident taking threes, is getting to the line more and making plays you don’t see from a 20-year-old 21st pick in the draft. He even added a gorgeous pass to Bball Paul for good measure. Doc Rivers said after the game he wouldn’t hesitate in using an 11-man rotation for the playoffs, and I think I can guess who he’s making space for.
For the older vets playing, Dwight Howard came up huge. He even hit a three (!) and grabbed 14 rebounds and scored 19 in 22 minutes of action. He also reportedly airballed a three that made Joel Embiid laugh so hard he fell out of his chair.
Speaking of Embiid, he dominated as well. He made the game look enticingly easy, dropping 29 in 23 minutes, going 11/13 from the field, and hitting all 6 of his free throws. It’s vital the sixers can get this version of Joel in the playoffs to have a shot. It feels like he could’ve scored a casual 60 if he had gotten full minutes.
Philly is so close to the one seed. They’re three games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets (who are the two seed) By my count, the sixers either need two wins or a win and a Nets lost to clinch the top spot. That would be huge, and it ensures that you avoid the Nets and the Bucks (led by the reigning MVP) until the conference finals, and get to play lesser competition in the first two rounds.
On Tuesday, Philly travels Indiana for a match with the Pacers, and can clinch the one seed that night if the Bulls can pull off an upset and topple the Nets. The Sixers will look to win their 9th straight, and manage the minutes of their starters heading into the postseason.